We've all heard the stories.
You know, the ones where your traveling friend boasts about the amazing host who gave them the secret locals tour of the city, the hostess who directed them to the breakfast restaurant with the epic pancakes, or the family who included them on their weekend outing to the beach.
These days, travelers want to experience places with real people that offer authentic insight into daily life in a new location. They don't want to arrive to a place only to get caught in the deluge of tourist traps alongside hundreds of other strangers or suffer through overpriced bar crawls and awkward group tours.
For many, the obvious choice to achieve this aim is either through Couchsurfing or AirBnb. Creating an online profile gives you the key to the world’s sofas (or treehouses or school buses-turned party pads).
However, this just might not be an attractive idea to you. Maybe you want to have some kind of personal connection that helps you find a travel host throughout your adventures –– someone who didn't come from a company, but from someone you might already know.
So we put together a game plan with 3 ways to find a travel host without a website that finds one for you.
1. Tell everyone about your trip before you plan it.
I know what you're thinking. You don't want to be that person. The one who goes around megaphoning your latest travel destination to the awe and envy of peers.
Do not do that. I repeat, do not do that.
Instead, if you let people know early on in the planning stages of an adventure, their suggestions might be able to guide you towards friends of friends who could offer up a couch or even a guest room. You can then build an itinerary of multiple locations based on the available hosts.
Asking people for help in the very beginning can help you avoid backtracking in your planning or realizing you have no contacts in the area you're headed.
It seems obvious, but seeing if any friends or family members have a connection to someone where you're headed can be a wealth of possibilities for contacts in the area.
Most people know someone who knows someone who’s studying abroad/working/on a spiritual quest/finding him/herself abroad. Use that knowledge!
This strategy works particularly well if you're planning a backpacking or otherwise multi-city adventure.
2. Let Facebook be your guide.
Once you've discussed your ideas with your close connections, it's time to forge outward into the second rung: online friends.
These days, online creeping been so easy or fruitful.
Clicking on or searching any location in Facebook can give you a rundown of the who's who of that place: who's traveled there, who lives there, who went to school there, etc. Also, a "can anyone help me out?" status wouldn't hurt.
Searching a particular hashtag on Instagram or Twitter can help you locate the trends within your social networks in order to pinpoint potential helpful people.
Direct messaging these folks can bring about a slew of possibilities. And you don't even have to worry about awkwardness.
These days, reaching out to loose ties is not a faux pas or considered weird. In fact, by having the connected friends as a conversation piece, you are more likely to land a helpful host, or at least a city tour guide.
3. Test the waters.
Depending on who you end up talking to, you might have different ways of approaching the "can I have yo couch" conversation.
If you're not sure how to break into it without coming right out and mentioning you need a place to stay, you can always start with a standby like this one:
"Hey [so-and-so], I'm [you] [your friend / colleague / aunt]'s friend. I'll be traveling to [your epic vacation destination] soon and heard that you live there. If you have some time, I'd love to hear about the [Tex-Mex restaurants / art museums / best selfie spots / fill in your travel destination of choice here] or anything else you think I should know about [said epic vacation destination]. Hope to hear from you soon. Have a great [appropriate time of day]!"
From there, you can delve into a conversation about other travel plans, including accommodations. Ask for suggestions, mention that you're looking for something cheap and authentic. If they don't come right out and offer for you to crash, you may be out of luck.
But fear not, as you still may have found a great tour guide, lunch companion or emergency contact in the area. Thank them for their time and any info they have given you.
Bonus Step: Be a great guest.
You did it! You landed a – somewhat – organic travel host. You've chatted, arranged dates and arrival times and you're on the doorstep.
It sounds like common sense, but show your appreciation. Bring a small gift as a token of appreciation. Keep your stuff tidy. Respect the house rules and cleanliness guidelines. Wash the dishes after meals. Pick up your towel off the bathroom floor. Say please and thank you. You know, good person stuff.
Finally, enjoy your vacation. Now that you have crossed off one of the important items on the list, you can spend time exploring!
Do you have more tips on how to get a great travel host organically? Let us know in the comments!
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.